Christian Heinze addresses the idea that Jon Huntsman lost in the 2012 primaries for being too moderate and reasonable. Heinze's answer to that idea: no.
He ranged from awful to mediocre, at best, during the debates -- it's not that he didn't try, it's just that he offered weak jokes, donned aggression at times, passivity at other times, and was never able to find a groove. Good debaters find grooves after a few debates. Huntsman didn't. That's not because he was too moderate and GOP primary voters too right wing -- that's what Huntsman and the narrative want you to think. He tanked in debates because he was a bad debater.
And how was he on the stump? I wasn't embedded with the Huntsman campaign, but from everything we seemed to see, he was just as underwhelming -- a guy cut out to be a diplomat and not a candidate for national office. So to tie this all together -- Huntsman wasn't some paragon of ideological steadiness in the primary, as his side would have you believe. He shifted considerably when it was convenient to do so, and when he saw an opening to Romney's right.
And none of that really mattered anyway, because he was just forgettable at debates and on the stump. He never really gave people a reason to vote for him, and that's saying something considering that primary voters were desperate for anyone but Romney.